Life, nature and love are all bursting with patterns. In high school I was drawn to spirals, I doodled them in class, and looked for them in nature. Trees have also always fascinated me, especially the idea of the roots pushing down deeper so the branches can reach higher. It can be comforting to look for patterns, it makes life less unpredictable. If we know that the physical and chemical forces exist that govern the laws of nature, we can have an idea of what comes next. But what happens when our own patterns aren’t healthy, and despite seeing what’s coming, you feel like you can’t change your own inevitable destination based on your pattern?
As I am on the verge of divorce, I continue to turn to nature to help me explore the idea of love and the programming I have to try to avoid certain undesirable outcomes. The ancient Greeks had several different names for love, because the variations of love cannot be encompassed in one word alone. Eros, or romantic love, was feared because it involved a lack of control. It includes the primordial desire to procreate, lust and sexual desire. Philia, or friendship love, comes from Plato’s idea that you can love someone without being physically attracted to them, hence platonic friends. Storage, or familial love, is the bond you have with family members. Mania, or obsessive love, is when the crazy comes out. Ludus, the playful or uncommitted love, is flirting and the fun early stages of a romance. Pragma is the longstanding and enduring love that grows between two people over time who make it work. Philautia is self love. The ancient Greeks knew that our love for others is a reflection of how we love ourselves. You can only love others as much as you love yourself. I have my own patterns for each of these types of love, some serve me well, others most certainly do not.
Last spring I was walking my dog in a local nature center by myself, thinking about my children and how I parent them, when it dawned on me that I was perpetuating a pattern from my own childhood that I didn’t like. My parents are amazing people. They are intelligent, creative and empathetic people. They are both growers, they continue to work towards improving themselves and the world around them. Like many creative people, they also contract before expanding, which involves going deep inside before coming back out. Like waves on the beach, or the breath coming in and out of your lungs, they would be emotionally remote, before expanding back out. I also contract, withdraw and go deep inside myself before coming back out. I regret that this often involves a limited emotional capacity for others, my children included. Acknowledging this, I realized that my self-love needed some stability. I can’t claim to have changed my pattern, but I have improved the way I navigate this. My health is a priority. I used to put my physical health first, but now it’s my mental health. I ask for space when I need it, and give my attention in spades when I can. I continue to strive to be more like a tree- growing deep roots undetected while expanding up and out.